Walt Disney and the magic of vision
Walt Disney is one of my heroes. Not for his success as a businessman, (to whom the major credit goes to his brother, Roy), but for his vision.
A favorite example of this vision is when Disney Studios outgrew their space on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles and Walt designed a new facility in Burbank. Multiple buildings were constructed, each specializing in certain phases of animation production. Tunnels connecting the buildings established a smooth-flowing movie-making assembly line. Utilities for the studio were placed in underground conduits.
The studio was sized for increased production. One animation feature required three years to complete. Releasing one feature annually consequently required facilities for the simultaneous production of three. The “backbone” of the studio was also sized for future growth – the streets, conduits and water systems were calculated for expansion without interrupting studio production.
Prior to construction, engineers from GE were brought in to design an air conditioning system for the studio, as celluloid was both heat and humidity sensitive and Walt wanted his employees to work in comfortable surroundings year-round. Broad lawns, providing a recreation area for employees, surrounded the buildings. A restaurant was included in the plan, offering meals to employees at below-studio cost.
The largest building housed the animation team. Allowing for earth faults, this building was constructed in ten separate units, which would move independently in the event of an earthquake. The wings of the building were on an east-west axis, and each office had an outside view. A maximum number of rooms with a northern exposure were provided for and those on the south had adjustable blinds to control the light. The penthouse of the Animation Building included a lounge, soda fountain, sun deck, gymnasium and showers for animators and executives alike.
The animators’ workspace was designed for maximum comfort. The desk was designed to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. Walt even worked on a design for a special animator’s chair. The color scheme involved pastels, designed for a calming effect.
Sounds like a Silicon Valley office of today.
Walt Disney did this in 1939.
(Attribution: Material for this article is from Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas.)